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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Word count?

   
Author Topic: Word count?
Scot
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I looked over the postings from this year and didn't see anything about this, but I apologize if this is redundant. Thinking about my word count woes, I thought it would be good to triangulate the guideline I've been basing things on.

The number that I've heard recommended for 1st novels is 80k words (with a little wiggle room, of course).

Does that ring true?

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ForlornShadow
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I'm not sure if that's 100% true as a definition but I do know that NaNoWriMo, considers you successful if you write 50K or more so I would assume that 80K is a good ballpark number. Personally I think that stories write themselves and if they get to be 50, 80, 100K or more then they deserve the word count regardless of what others think about the length of a novel.
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extrinsic
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For a mechanical metric, an eighty-thousand-word ballpark is fair ball for a first adult-audience novel, exceptions notwithstood. Like young adult, a few thousand less; middle grade, a few thousand less yet, maybe.

A pertinent question might be why? Market forces favor shorter novels because of less resource expenditure risk exposure. A shorter novel is less risky overall, though the kernel consideration is the marketplace backdrop is mostly unable to measure a narrative's performance potentials; therefore, if a risk is warranted, better to minimize risk and see if or how successfully a work will perform in the marketplace first.

Also, a novel of that approximate word count fits the feedstock pipeline for case cover, trade paperback, and mass-market paperback physical packages: the books themselves, the boxes they fit into, the pallets the boxes ship on, the trucks and now planes that carry the pallets and boxes, and the warehouses and storerooms in which they are stored, plus broken bulk handling ease. A principal consideration for digital publication is not as much a matter of physical handling as a publisher's editorial investments and the end user's risk of an overburdensome reading experience from an overwrought and maybe wandering narrative.

From a writer perspective, a shorter novel is more manageable to compose for a freshman effort, not to mention that a shorter novel develops focused composition skills. And why not appreciate marketplace considerations? That is, the risk exposure considerations for publishers, for distributors, for booksellers, for readers, and for writers, maybe for critics and reviewers, are matters of responsible artistic professionalism.

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Scot
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Those comments highlight 2 polarities that I'm finding in the novelist neighborhood --- the artistic and the professional.

I'm not saying the 2 are incompatible. It's just that I've been surprised to find how much of an entrepreneurial effort is involved in storytelling for a living.

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Meredith
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80,000 words is a decent ballpark. Fantasy or science fiction often go a little longer for world building.

I'd target 70,000 for a young adult and no more than 50,000 for a middle grade.

Of course, all of that depends on what you intend to do. For self publishing, often longer actually is better. Only if the story needs the extra words, of course.

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Reziac
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A discussion elsewhere pointed out that right now a majority of really successful first published fantasies are in the 160k-200k range. (Note that these need not be the author's first novel *written*.)

But my observation is that most novice writers use a lot of workarounds of the style "would be able to" instead of "could", and "did not have any" instead of "had no". Consider how often one needs such basic bits, and you can see how this inflates wordcount.

Write however many words your novel needs. But make sure it needs all the words.

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Grumpy old guy
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Most of my novels come in around 75k--80k. If, however, I want to indulge in a lot of world/social building the word count might get to 125k. Anything more, in my silly opinion, seems like the writer either doesn't know what they want to say, or how to say it.

Phil.

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Robert Nowall
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Used to be seventy thousand words---the amount that would fit in the books in the sizes that were easy to print. (Fifty thousand for some paperback runs.) Lately, though, it's a little more up.

That was back before some of the more modern evolution of categories.

Write to your own length...worry about whether it fits when you've got some publisher hooked...

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Scot:
Those comments highlight 2 polarities that I'm finding in the novelist neighborhood --- the artistic and the professional.

I'm not saying the 2 are incompatible. It's just that I've been surprised to find how much of an entrepreneurial effort is involved in storytelling for a living.

A sad fact of writing life that art has been increasingly commodified since technology made written word accessible for anyone. More so since digital technology has added its contributions to art's commodification. Art commodification can only continue to become more powerful a social and commercial force, until, what, population decline makes art less of a numerical matter? Or another or many global influences?
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